Sunday, September 07, 2008

Moonie and Poly- 30 years on

It seems appropriate to me, in my odd little world, that this post is linked to the last one by the twin peaks of punk rock and The Who. Today is the 30th anniversary of Keith Moon's death (I told my brother Terry this last night and he was incredulous that it was that long ago. I know what he means!) and he's still thought by many to be the symbol of rock'n'roll outrage, and by others to be an example of all that is wrong with celebrity behaviour. Me- well as I said last time, he's one of the great missing links in my chain of watching live music, and whilst it would be churlish to suggest that he couldn't be destructive to both himself and those around him I'd like to think he had a humour missing from so many other 'outrageous' personalities (see the long out-of-print book 'Moon The Loon' by his driver Pete 'Dougal' Butler for any number of examples) that makes the good bits outweigh the bad by no little distance. And anyway, just listen to the music- 'I Can See For Miles', 'Won't Get Fooled Again' and the 'Live At Leeds' album to name but three examples of his drumming genius- many have tried, many will continue to try, but no one else plays like that.

I remember in the earlier days of punk rock (1976-ish if you're counting) reading about these rather odd looking bands emerging from what seemed to me to be subterranean London; The Who were one of the few 'older' bands that any of them seemed to have any sort of respect for, even to the extent that The Sex Pistols played 'Substitute' in their live shows. Last night saw yet another visit back to those days in the form of a show by X-Ray Spex (their 3rd single 'Identity' had just been released when Moonie died) at The Roundhouse in Camden Town. Myself, Big Andy, my brother Terry and his 14 year old daughter Anna (start 'em young eh?!?) arrived just in time to catch Goldblade taking to the stage for a half hour or so of shouty anthems which went down well with the rapidly-arriving audience, even to the extent that they managed to squeeze an encore. I'd not seen them before and found them to be a bit same-y but good raucous fun none-the-less, with noted writer John Robb (who I met at last year's Ruts/Rollins collaboration) turning out to be an excellently mad frontman.
In true punk rock tradition- and in almost total darkness- X-Ray Spex started 'Oh Bondage Up Yours' before the P.A. had been turned on; the lights came up to reveal Poly Styrene and... well, some blokes. Still it sounded good- well, it sounded pretty much how X-Ray Spex always sounded i.e. a bit chaotic- with Poly as unco-ordinated as ever but brilliant all the same. I think that in many ways they were one of the definitive punk bands in that they couldn't have happened without the 'movement' to which they belonged, yet they were a very different band to many of their contemporaries. Musically the saxophone always set them apart, and lyrically the observations on consumerism and all that implies still sounded oddly relevant today, if a little dated in places- I wonder if anyone under 30 knows what 'Instamatic' refers to?. The audience forgave any shortcomings (it really was a bit too chaotic in places!) and sang along with every word, and the final, clearly unscheduled encore (a repeat of 'The Day The World Turned Dayglo') saw Poly looking genuinely taken aback by the reaction that they'd received. Back to the future then...

As we left a slightly over-refreshed Big Andy (he rarely drinks as he's normally driving) pointed out 2 women to me. One was, shall we say, rather attractive- although her attractiveness was somewhat diminished when we realised that her mate was wearing an SS uniform. Some people never learn do they?

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